Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: What is the World Made Of? (All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases)


The book “What is the World Made Of” written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and illustrated by Paul Meisel, explores all about solids, liquids, and gases. The illustrations and everyday examples provided give young students a deeper understanding of the distinct phases of matter.

The story opens by describing impossible scenarios, such as “Did you even drink a glass of blocks? Have you ever played with a lemonade doll, or put on milk for socks?” to introduce the importance of matter. A foundation is thus set, showing that all things are made of matter. As the story progresses, more and more examples are given for the three phases of matter; solids, liquids, and gases. Everyday connections are given to show the properties of matter. Solids are explained using clay to show that they hold shape. Milk is used to explain how liquids take the shape of their container and have a definite volume. Finally, air is used to portray the qualities of the gas state of matter. Connections to everyday life are also provided to help kids understand phase changes of water, such as the idea of making ice cubes and the melting of ice cubes in warmer temperatures. The book ends with an easy and informative summation of the lesson, offering hypothetical, funny questions that show the importance of the distinct phases and properties of matter in the day to day lives of children:

“Can you imagine a world where your toys melt when it gets too hot? Where the walls of your house turn into hazy gas, and animals just walk in and out as they please? A place where, on cold days, you have to swim through the air, and where everything you’d like to drink is hard as a block? What a crazy world it would be!”

To find out more about matter, on the inside cover, the book also offers questions and further experiments to illustrate specific concepts about the three states of matter.

Curriculum Connections
This book provides a very thorough introduction to the topic of matter and its different phases. The book could be used for grades 1-3, providing easily understood, everyday examples of matter in different forms and the different phase changes of water (SOL K.5 (a)). The different properties of solids, liquids, and gases, including mass and volume, are also taught throughout the story (SOL 2.3 (a)(b)). The book provides hands-on activities and experiments for kids to more fully understand the topic, as well.

Additional Resources

  • This website provides an online quiz exploring the different states of matter. The quiz consists of 10 questions with correct answers and detailed explanations offered for each question.
  • This lesson consists of an experiment “The Power Of Ice,” focusing on water and its properties in different phases. The lesson provides space for student hypothesis, materials and procedures, as well as experimental conclusions.
  • This lesson plan will have students observe different phases of matter, changes in patterns, perform experiments, and explore differences between physical and chemical changes.

Book: What is the World Made Of? (All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases)
Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Paul Meisel
Harper Collins Publishers
Publication Date:
Grade Range:

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